Musselman 70.3 – Race Report

My first 70.3 race was a life experience that feels almost too complex to sum up in mere words. I’ve been trying to find my way to describing all of the different things it was for over two months now, and I haven’t gotten very far. I’m not sure it’s something that can be put into words at all, at least not the true core nature of it. It’s an experience, and experiencing it is probably the only real way to know it. Words, as much as I love them, are sometimes just a pale facsimile of the truth they attempt to describe.

So with that in mind, here at last is a basic run-down of how the race went. I also cut together a video that gets at my outlook and emotions surrounding the event a little bit, but probably doesn’t do much better than the words, in the end. (You can watch the video on YouTube here, or embedded below at the end of this post)

Swim
0:37:52 – 1st in Division (Clydesdale)

Perfect. Honestly my favorite part of the day, which surprised me. I missed the warmup in the water because I chose to use the bathroom (successfully, so a good choice I think). The lake was so shallow, though, that everyone walked for at least 100 yards, with resistance from the water it was a good warmup. But I had fun, swam strong the whole way, and finished in the range I knew from practice would mean I wasn’t slow and didn’t blow up. I had 1:40/100 on my watch, official time pace was 1:48, probably due to the swim exit to the mat and the standing around during the wave start. No anxiety once i got going, no issues, just ground it out and watched the fish. I felt most prepared for the swim out of all three, when all was said and done. I was not expecting the swim to be the most enjoyable part of the race, but I really did have a lot of fun with it. I also didn’t expect to win my division in the swim, so that was a nice bonus.

Swim exit

Bike
2:49:40 – 2nd in Division (Clydesdale)

My first significant plan deviation happened on the bike, but I didn’t realize it until later. For some reason I had it in my head that my coach said 250 average watts as my target, but it was 250 normalized power. Oops. For what it was worth, I ended with 256 AP on my computer so I felt good about hitting my number, even if it turned out to be the wrong one. Overall I was about 15 watts over the intended plan. I put down two bottles of water and two bottles of Gatorade Endurance, plus two 5-oz squeeze bottles of maple syrup. All of which I brought with me. Every aid station I grabbed water and doused myself. All in all fairly uneventful. Big headwinds on some roads, went from one lake to another and back. 2 miles of gravel. Only one hill I would call a ‘climb,’ but 2,000 ft of accumulated elevation. I felt good on the bike, working but not pushing super hard. The last 5 miles or so started to feel a bit uncomfortable, and I was just ready to get off the bike.

Photographer caught me mid-snack

Run
2:10:00 – 2nd in Division (Clydesdale)

Here, of course, is where things got ‘interesting.’ I felt surprisingly good going out. Smiled and waved to my family and wasn’t even faking it. I was having fun! After I cleared the greater transition area, I looked at my watch and realized I was doing like 8:00/mile out of the gate, so I slowed that roll pretty quick and settled into around 8:50-9:30 for the first 4 miles. Then the hills started and I got slower, which was normal and fine. But then mile 7 was upon me and I got massive, massive intestinal cramping. Like really bad. It stopped me dead for maybe 30 seconds. Then I was walking, not wanting to give up. Happened to be on the biggest climb of the course where a lot of people walked anyway, so that was sort of a blessing in disguise I guess. I was eyeing the bushes and trying to decide if I needed to try a pit stop, but eventually ripped a massive…shall we say…’flatulent expulsion.’ Just gas, no soiled britches. And then I was running again! Got back up to around 9’s here and there, especially on the descents back into town. I still had minor cramping happening but it was small enough to ignore. But the whole ordeal took a lot out of me. I tried to pick it up at mile ten, knowing there was just a 5K left, but it didn’t last. I had almost nothing left for the last mile. Just slogged it in. The one bright spot at that point, besides the finish and my family, was that I passed a superstar aero guy who had passed me on the bike at mile 42 on the gravel. I guess he bonked harder than me. He was walking. I felt bad for him but it was also confirmation of what my coach said — a pass on the bike is momentary. A pass on the run is final.

Heading out on the run

Finish and Post-Race
5:43:24 – 2nd in Division (Clydesdale), 72/208 Gender, 96/343 Overall

I was pleased as punch to discover I had made my way to the podium in my division. The Clydesdale division, when it exists, is something of a dilemma, because weight is the only criterion for entering. But there’s a big difference between 250 pounds of muscle and 250 pounds of fat, for example. So it’s not always necessarily the equalizer it’s intended to be. The competition in this division was strong at this race; the winner completed it in under 5:30:00. I would have needed to be 10 minutes faster on the bike and at least 5 minutes faster on the run to win, not to mention faster transitions. I was very happy with what I accomplished and felt that I did the best I possibly could have, considering the challenges I faced (both this year and during the race itself).

Made it

Having my family, both close and extended, there to support me along with some close friends really made all the difference, though. For the last two miles, they were all I thought about. I hugged my kids just before the finish and felt a great sense of relief crossing the final threshold.

While waiting for the awards, I had the opportunity to meet and chat briefly with Jennie and David Hansen, two of my Ironman heroes. They were as friendly and open as could be. They both crushed their races. Jennie did the combination race, which was the sprint on Saturday and the 70.3 on Sunday, and won everything.

Video Report

I made a video about the race, attempting to summarize it from another sort of approach. You can watch that here:

Triathlon: 1 Year In

Today (ok not today, but the day I started actually writing this, about a week ago) marks 365 days since I started my training plan last year for my first sprint triathlon. A lot has happened since then.

I started with a strength day, of all things, and just based on that fact alone, I’m amazed that I stuck with it this long. It’s one of my least favorite types of exercise to do. Following a 12-week plan extracted from a book, I got myself together enough to complete my first sprint distance triathlon. One of the first things I learned was what stuff I needed to bring to the race and what I didn’t (look at all those towels! lol). I did my second sprint just two weeks later, which was a big help in maintaining consistency, I think. There’s a very real possibility that, had I needed to wait a month or two until my next race, I might have dropped the ball. But there wasn’t much time to do much of anything except recover, and it was off to my second race. That one was a lot of fun; I was solidly hooked by that point. September rolled around and it was time for my third race, which I had considered my “A” race for the season, even though it was also a sprint like the others. I swam, biked and ran my way to the Clydesdale podium, winning my division, with a time that also would have been in contention in my age group, had I gone that route.

With that, I had proved to myself that I liked this sport. I hadn’t yet felt bored, or struggled to continue training for mental/emotional reasons. I’d had a couple of minor injury hiccups along the way, which seemed enormous at the time, but were really just bumps in the road. It really looked good for my goals of consistency and, eventually, performance. I hired a coach. I bought a new bike. Things were moving.

Then I got hit by a car. And everything changed. I had a concussion that would take me five months to recover from. In the interim I managed to stay as active as was possible, mostly by walking on the treadmill, and eventually doing relatively short and easy indoor trainer rides. I applied my focus to producing video content, and went to Puerto Rico for a cycling adventure vacation (I’m just realizing I never really posted about that; I’m working on a larger video that will showcase the whole trip. It’s slow going but I hope to have it done soon).

At the five month mark, I really started to feel normal again. I was pushing hard on a lot of workouts, and finally suffering no ill effects. Looking back, I can see how I was really charging ahead when this happened, going a lot harder than I probably should have a lot of times. Which I think is understandable considering how long I had been under wraps. My training and fitness levels really started to climb at that point.

I’ve still got a ways to go on intelligently managing my IF,
but Concussion Valley is looking smaller every day

I rode outdoors in Vermont for the first time at the Muddy Onion, which was also my first outdoor ride with a power meter. Shortly afterward, I did my first FTP test. Now I have a baseline for understanding my efforts and training with real structure.

Consistency is there. Fitness is getting there. Performance remains to be seen. I’ve done a lot, learned a lot, and been through a lot. My weight is still not where it should be, but I’ve made progress:

26 pounds lost over 1 year, while building a fair amount of heavy cycling muscle.

Tomorrow I’m riding in the Whiteface Mountain Uphill Bike Race, which I consider my first performance challenge of the season. I’m not out to win it or anything (fat chance, literally, with a Clydesdale division that starts at 190 pounds), but I do hope to lay down some effort that I can be proud of. And then right around the corner is my first triathlon of 2019, a sprint-distance rust shaker in Nashua NH.

It’s been a good first year, overall. I’m grateful to have found this sport, even more grateful to be able to practice and compete in it, and hopeful and optimistic for what it means for my future.